9 Tips From the Pros for Conducting Self-Storage Auctions

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By Deb Hipp

Reprinted with permission from "The Storage Facilitator" blog.

Every self-storage operator dreads auction day. An auction takes time you’d rather spend renting units, and when it’s over, you’ll probably get yelled at by someone whose stuff got sold. “There is no facility that likes to conduct storage auctions,” said auctioneer Luther Davis, co-owner of Thomas & Associates Auctioneers in Sulphur Springs, Texas.

Still, as long as there is self-storage, there will be lien sales. Here are nine tips to make yours go as smoothly as possible.

1. Be Prepared

If you’ve done your prep work, auction day should be a simple process, Davis said. Make sure you’ve sent required notices and followed lien laws. Check for last-minute payments right up until the auction begins.

2. Have Enough Staff

The manager needs to be in charge of the auction, not working on something else, said Paul Maglio, president and owner of Storage Auction Solutions in Middleton, Mass. You don’t want to tell customers to call back because you’re “busy doing an auction,” he said. That just reminds them that you have the right to sell their stuff if they don’t pay.

3. Don’t Play Auctioneer

A professional auctioneer can bring in $1,000, compared with the $50 a self-storage operator doing his own auction might make, Maglio said. Do-it-yourself auctioneers also tend to make up rules as they go because they feel like they own the stuff in the unit. “They’ll say, ‘I want this much money or I’m not selling it,’” Maglio said. “Bidders see that, and they don’t like it.”

4. Display Rules

Post auction rules at your facility and hand out copies. Here are some important ones:

  • Length of time buyer has to empty and clean the unit (usually 24 to 48 hours)
  • Cleaning deposit or cleaning fee
  • Restrictions against using facility dumpsters
  • How units are sold: typically as a whole, not item by item
  • Protocol for viewing units
  • Types of payment accepted
  • Terms and conditions of sales
  • Rules for bidding
  • Return of personal items such as photographs and legal documents to the rental office

5. Attract New Tenants

Sell discounted locks on auction day. Offer bottled water. Give a half-month’s free rent to winning buyers who can’t clear out their unit in the required time. Bidders and dealers have to store their stuff, too, and 90 percent of them rent storage units, Maglio said. “I tell managers, ‘Treat them with respect, and they’ll send you business.’”

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